44 Million Doses Of COVID Vax Gone To Waste Due To Short Shelf Life

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The Department of Health (DOH) said Friday the number of wasted or expired COVID-19 vaccine doses bought by the government and the private sector had increased to 44 million doses, 24 million of which expired due to short shelf life.

“Shelf life” is a food industry term, which, in health care, refers to the length of time that a blood product, therapeutic or other product may be stored under appropriate conditions before it must be discarded by law.

Some 3.8 million shots were from “operational wastage” such as temperature excursion, discoloration, and natural disaster, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

The DOH is also determining how the other 5 percent went to waste.

Majority of the wasted vaccines were procured by the private sector and local governments, Vergeire said.

Last month, the health agency disclosed that over 31 million COVID-19 vaccines went to waste, with an estimated cost of P15.6 billion.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 positivity rate in the National Capital Region, where 13 million people live, climbed to 11.9 percent, independent group OCTA Research reported.

In a tweet, OCTA research fellow Dr. Guido David said the NCR COVID-19 positivity rate increased from 9.4 percent on November 23 to 11.9 percent on November 30.

The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.

“This rate of increase in the positivity rate in the NCR is around the same rate of increase during the Omicron BA.5 wave (from June) and the XBB (from September). This projects to a December BQ.1 wave similar to the BA.5 and XBB waves,” David said.

BQ.1 is a sublineage of the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant.

Citing results of the latest genome sequencing, the DOH earlier reported that at least 14 cases of BQ.1 had been detected in the Philippines.

Of the 14 cases, 13 were local cases from the Cordillera Administrative Region, Regions 1, 4A, 7, and National Capital Region, the DOH said.

David, meanwhile, said the reproduction number in the NCR increased from 1.11 on November 21 to 1.32 on November 28.

The reproduction rate refers to the number of people infected by one case. A reproduction number below 1 indicates that the transmission of the virus is slowing down.

The OCTA research fellow said the weekly new cases increased from a seven-day average of 264 on November 24 to 411 on December 1, with a one-week growth rate of 56 percent.

He said the average daily attack rate (ADAR) in the region increased to 2.85 per 100,000 population.

ADAR is the incidence showing the average number of new cases in a period per 100,000 people.

“Hospital utilization in the NCR remained low but did register an increase from 26 percent on November 23 to 28 percent on November 30,” he added.

The DOH logged 1,238 new COVID-19 infections nationwide on Thursday, as the active tally increased to 18,412.

This came after two straight days of fewer than 1,000 cases were reported.

Reports on wasted COVID-19 vaccine doses and positivity rate surfaced as health authorities claimed they have detected two additional cases of omicron subvariant BQ.1, raising its tally to 16.

According to the DOH, the two local BQ.1 cases were found in Cagayan Valley and Central Visayas.

The BQ.1, which is a sublineage of omicron BA.5, is considered a variant of interest by the European Center for Disease Control.

Deemed to be highly transmissible and better at evading immunity, the BQ.1 is driving up coronavirus infections in the US, UK, and parts of Europe.

The DOH also detected 536 new cases of omicron subvariants, which include the 2 BQ.1 cases.

These include 353 cases of BA.2.3.20, 1 case of BA.4, 21 cases of BA.5, 133 cases of XBB and 28 cases tagged as other omicron sublineages.

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